At the end of episode 2, Cocona and Papika are taken through the bowels of the Flip Flaps base to reach a device that will help them go to Pure Illusion. According to Doctor Hidaka, this device is called the “Thomasson”. What is a Thomasson? Where did that name come from? Well, that is an interesting story and one quite revealing about some of Flip Flappers’ core themes and goals.
In the 1980s a Japanese artist named Akasegawa Genpei defined something he called a “Hyperart Thomasson”. A Thomasson he said, is an architectural structure that seems to serve no purpose but is still preserved as if it is useful. These structures take on the nature of conceptual art, despite that not being the intent of their creation. A good example of a Thomasson is a freestanding staircase, leading to nowhere but still preserved and maintained.
So, what does this have to do with Flip Flappers? Well, lets consider the Flip Flaps Thomasson. It appears to be two cubbyholes, one on top of another, each just large enough for a small girl to fit inside. When the door is closed, they can reach down and grab each others hands. This device, allegedly, allows them to travel to Pure Illusion. We happen to know for a fact that travel to Pure Illusion does not require the Thomasson. Cocona and Papika go to Pure Illusion multiple times without it. So why is it even there? Well, ostensibly it helps to reduce their “Impedance” making it easier for them to to synchronize and go to Pure Illusion. But its worth stepping back a moment and looking at things from outside the frame of the plot.
On their way to the Thomasson, Cocona and Papika are taken through a variety of other structures that could be considered “Thomassons” themselves. While this made for an amusing visual gag, it also points out something else that will become apparent later. Flip Flaps itself is a “Thomasson”. The organization Flip Flaps honestly doesn’t accomplish much in the series. Composed of only three people, Doctor Salt, Doctor Hidaka and Sayuri, it clearly is supposed to be aping classic anime secret organizations. The most obvious one and the one specifically called out to by the show is of course NERV from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Flip Flaps however is not NERV, except inasmuch that both are the products of a single man who failed at a crucial moment. Salt set up Flip Flaps to oppose his father, who created Aesclepius to pursue the Fragments of Mimi. Salt is also, as we know, Cocona’s father. So in theory, we have the same setup as Evangelion. A child brought in to fight their father’s battles, whether they want to or not. So what does this have to do with Thomassons?
Well, both Flip Flaps and Aesclepius are something like “Narrative Thomasons”. They are things that viewers will recognize as important, due to their experience with other similar series (again NERV and SEELE are the obvious comparisons, but many exist in anime). However when you look at how things actually play out, both end up being completely superfluous to the events. As discussed previously, Flip Flappers doesn’t really bother to explain things that fall outside the direct interest of Cocona, and she is not really concerned about or dedicated to Flip Flaps as an organization. As a result, most things about Flip Flaps (and Aesclepius which she is even less interested in) go completely unexplained and without exploration.
So, does Flip Flaps stop Aesclepius from taking Pure Illusion and using it to rule the world? No. Aesclepius is destroyed by Mimi in an offhandedly dismissive show of power. Their main contribution becomes what they were, not what they are or can do. Does Flip Flaps help stop Mimi and save the world from being overrun by Pure Illusion? No. Salt spends most of the last three episodes making his way to the Aesclepius’ destroyed base (with Nyunyu and Sayuri in tow) to use ELPIS to enter Pure Illusion. And what does he do there? He watches as his daughter solves the problem and resolve the issues at hand. The only thing Salt does is reject the temptation to reset and fix his mistakes…a temptation that only comes up because he was there. Salt was completely irrelevant to the resolution of the series.
This is not to say that Flip Flaps and Aesclepius should not have been in the story. Just like how a real-life Thomasson, despite its uselessness, has become a type of art that is often worth preserving, these Narrative Thomassons provide extra texture and information about the world of the show. Flip Flaps is not NERV, but that is also the point of Flip Flaps, and Flip Flappers more generally. To look past the form of something and see through to the personal stories that really matter.